The Birth of the Black Orchid – Despite the Disaster of trying to turn the Albert Hall into Babylon

Finding a site for a suitable nightclub in any town or city was always difficult. Especially back the 1980s, when everyone attending a nightclub, restaurant etc after 11pm had to consume a substantial meal so as to allow them to consume alcohol. Add to this the vociferous jockeying of the existing nightclub managers/owners who wanted to retain  the status quo, and often fuelled the police with stories of “streets of fear”. Although  the police generally took the view that enough was enough. Better the devil you know!

Nottingham was no exception. The city was regarded as prime hunting ground for nightclub customers, although it seemed impossible to even find a site. Never mind locking horns with existing nightclubs and authorities.

Then came a breakthrough. Property developers Wilson Bowen had a suitable site for a “Super Bowl” at Derby, and another one at Lenton Nottingham, which “may be suitable” for a nightclub. The infrastructure was complete, plus a completed Showcase cinema and Sawyers Bar Diner. All on the site of a former council rubbish tip.

Deals were done. Plans drawn. Project meetings planned. Spreadsheets prepared, scrutinised, and prepared again… and again. In amongst all this a trading budget was drawn up, with only the slightest hint of reality, which was deemed necessary to obtain funding.

Everything was looking good. Everyone looked forward to the birth of the Black Orchid – despite the disaster of trying to turn the Albert Hall into Babylon.

The plans and artist impressions were amazing. Terry Wheater and his team at Group Northern had really produced the goods – although those guys had also created Paradise Lost Watford, The Dome and Pagoda Park Birmingham, Pink Coconut Derby and a host of other multi-million pounds profit earners.

Everyone was ecstatic until it was realised that this would be one of the first night clubs in the country to fall under the new “Disabled Access” legislation.Then it was discovered that the chairman of the licensing committee had a disabled daughter who enjoyed nightclubs.

Back to the drawing board. Although it seemed that by providing access for a wheelchair to all facilities the project was scuppered, with the new plans presented in sombre mood. The building looked  odd; all ramps, slides and hiding places. Albeit with beautiful lighting and decor. Something of a giant Hamster Utopia.

Matters took a turn for the worse at the Entertainment Licence meeting, when the chairman announced that he had a disabled daughter, who would not want to go to the Black Orchid. Because it looked like a discotheque for the disabled, and she wanted enjoy a discotheque for the able-bodied.

After an awkward silence he smiled and said that she did not need access to every bar, or every restaurant or dancefloor. All she needed was to be able to enter and leave the building safely, get to a bar, toilet, and a dancefloor, and to be able to have a meal.

Smiles all round until he noticed the strapline “Dancing and Cavorting” and asked what was meant by “cavorting”. “Enjoying yourself”, came the reply, his look suggested that he interpreted it as “to behave in a physically lively and uninhibited way”. Mmm!

And the reality was that approximately one and half million customers danced and cavorted at what was to become one of the UK`s most iconic nightclubs.

Finally – In case anyone wonders how the name Black Orchid came about….

That`s simple.

The star of the horseracing world at that time was Desert Orchid!


Mecca Ltd published a 1977 Managers Handbook of all venues. Listed below are those in the Dance Halls and Disco section

Mecca Ltd published a 1977 Managers Handbook of all venues. Listed below are those in the Dance Halls and Disco section. Clearly many of the iconic ones are now gone, some by way of demolition, or change of use. Others exist to this day, usually after a mixed bag of owners, name changes and a multitude of managers.

We hope you find the following list interesting, and perhaps worthy of a comment –

Basildon Raquel`s 23 Market Pavement
Bath Tiffany`s Sawclose
Berwick on Tweed Caesar`s Palace Hyde Hill
Birmingham Gay Tower Reservoir Road, Edgebaston
Birmingham Locarno Hurst Street
Birmingham Mayfair Bullring Centre, Smallbrook, Queensway
Birmingham Samantha`s Pershaw Street
Birmingham Tiffany`s Long Lane, Blackheath, Halesowen
Blackburn Golden Palms St Peter Street
Blackpool Tiffany`s Central Drive
Bolton Palais Bridge Street
Bournemouth Tiffany`s 570. Christchurch Road Boscombe
Bradford Annabella`s Little Horton Lane
Bradford Locarno Manningham Lane
Bristol Locarno New Bristol Centre, Frogmore Street
Bristol Mayfair New Bristol Centre, Frogmore Street
Bristol Raquel`s New Bristol Centre, Frogmore Street
Bristol Tiffany`s Durdham Down
Burnley Cat`s Whiskers Centenary Way
Burnley Lancastrian Centenary Way
Burslem Adulte Ballroom Waterloo Road, Stoke on Trent
Carlisle Tiffany`s 81 – 87 Botchergate
Chester Tiffany`s Foregate Street
Coalville Tiffany`s Marlbrough Square
Coventry Tiffany`s Smithford Way
Darlington Tiffany`s (Opening November 1976 ???)
Darwen Tiffany`s Above Coop, School Street
Derby Tiffany`s Babbington Lane
Dewsbury Tiffany`s Field House, Wellington Street
Dundee Tiffany`s 106 Nethergate
Dunstable Tiffany`s Broadwall, The Quadrant
Edinburgh Tiffany`s 99 St Stephen`s Street
Exeter Zhivago`s 13 – 14 Okehampton Street
Glasgow Plaza Eglinton Toll
Glasgow Tiffany`s Sauchiehall Street
Gloucester Tiffany`s Station Road
Great Yarmouth Tiffany`s Marine Parade
Grimsby Tiffany`s Wintringham Road
Guilford Annabella`s 4 – 6 Upper North Street
Halifax Tiffany`s Broad Street
Harlow Tiffany`s Market Square, The High
Harrogate Bali Ha`i Commercial Street
Harrogate Annabella`s Station Parade
Hinkley Tiffany`s The Horsefair
Hull Bali bHa`i George Street
Hull Tiffany`s/Annabella`s Ferensway
Ilford Tiffany`s 246 – 250 High Road
King`s Lynn Tiffany`s Norfolk Street/Broad Street
Leeds Cat`s Whiskers Meanwood
Leeds Tiffany`s Merrion Centre, Merrion Street
Leicester Palais Humberstone Gate
Leicester Tiffany`s Corn Exchange, Market Place South
Liverpool Grafton Rooms West Derby Road
Liverpool Tiffany`s India Builodings, Water Street
London Bali Ha`i 386 Streatham High Road
London Cafe de Paris Coventry Street
London Cat`s Whiskers 158 Streatham High Road
London Empire Rooms 161 Tottenham Court Road
London Lyceum Wellington Street, The Strand
London Mayfair High Road, Tottenham
London Palais 242 Shepherd`s Bush Road, Hammersmith
London Tiffany`s 24 Shaftsbury Avenue
London Tiffany`s 111/115 The Broadway, Wimbledon
Manchester Caroline`s 111a Deansgate
Manchester Ritz Whitworth Street
Manchester Tiffany`s 27a Oxford Road
Merthyr Tydfil Tiffany`s New Market Walk, The Precinct
Middlesbrough Tiffany`s 234 Linthorpe Road
Newcastle upon Tyne Mayfair Newgate Street
Newcastle upon Tyne Tiffany`s 49 New Bridge Street
Newport Tiffany`s Bridge Street, Gwent
Norwich Norwood Rooms Aylsham Road
Norwich Samson and Hercules Tombland
Nottingham Palais Parliament Street
Nottingham Sherwood Rooms Greyfriar Gate
Nottingham Tiffany`s 74 Victoria Centre
Oldham Cat`s Whiskers Union Street
Portsmouth Locarno Arundel Street
Purley Tiffany`s 112 Brighton Road
Rochdale Tiffany`s 6 Nelson Street
Rotherham Tiffany`s Main Street
Sale Blue Room 56 Washway Road
Sale Tiffany`s 56 Washway Road
Scarborough Tiffany`s Bar House, Aberdeen Walk
Scunthorpe Tiffany`s Doncaster Road
Sheffield Crazy Daizy 11 – 17 High Street
Sheffield Samantha`s Queen`s Road
Sheffield Tiffany`s 33 – 49 London Road
Shrewsbury Tiffany`s Riverside Shopping Centre, Raven Meadows
Southend on Sea Zhivago`s 355 Chartwell Square, Victoria Circus
Southampton Royal Pier Ballroom Pavilion, Royal Pier
Southport Tiffany`s 549 Liverpool Road, Ainsdale
Stafford Top of the World Newport Road
Stevenage Tiffany`s Danestrete
Newcastle under Lyme Tiffany`s Crystal Buildings, Hassell Street
Sunderland Locarno Newcastle Road
Wakefield Dolly Gray`s Westgate
Wakefield Raquel`s The Bullring
Wakefield Tiffany`s Southgate
Wigan Tiffany`s 61 – 69 Standishgate
Worksop Tiffany`s Netherholme Shopping Centre
York Cat`s Whiskers Fishergate

It would be great to know what happened to the venue in your town or city.

The Pink Coconut Derby opened during December 1983

The Pink Coconut Derby opened during December 1983, although it could be said that Romeos and Juliets never really closed.

When the company directors set a profit target for Romeos and Juliets, they also promised a £230.000 budget for a complete refurbishment of the Colyear Street nightclub. In nightclub terms the budget was small, but luckily the company culture of the time was to ensure that everyone involved with decision making had a clear view of the facts.

Without doubt the sound systems had to be renewed to allow greater control of the volume throughout the rooms. The dance floors needed enlarging. And the toilets – oh dear – the toilets. How anyone coped with the tiny facility for such high attendances in Romeo and Juliets days is unimaginable, and probably best not asked.

On the positive side a near perfect team of entertainers, staff and support was already in place. There was also a capacity attendance of loyal customers, despite worn out carpets, wall coverings etc. To close the premises was unthinkable, where could the customers go to? And what if they found somewhere else and enjoyed it so much, they refused to return? No – the building could not close; and so the rolling refit began.

Romeos, the larger of the rooms was closed immediately. The room was stripped bare and major works began. Screens were built to cordon off the the work area, but some bare lighting was left on to show the customers how their club was progressing. Juliets was to become the Palm Grove, with the work undertaken from Sunday to opening time on the Thursday. The club only traded Thursday to Saturday.

Management were amazed at the enthusiasm of the staff and customers, who often helped to sweep,  dust, move building materials and generally tidy up. Later in the evening staff were often handed hammers, drills and other tools they had found in the club.

Group Northern, the design and build company may have an alternative view, but to the staff the refurbishment went like clockwork. Customers were amazed as shining chrome palm trees, illuminated planters, and neon covered bar ceilings reflected the symmetrical chrome features, glistened and reflected as the room came to life.

Whilst we now refer to the club as the Pink Coconut, it never had a working title because there was no budget for sign-age, letterheads etc. Luckily the Pink Coconut Brighton played a huge part in moving things forward.

On Tuesday the 13th and Wednesday 14th of December, the club opened to invited guests for trial runs. Then with all cylinders firing on the Wednesday for the VIP night.

It seems odd that one of the comments about the VIP night highlighted the number of millionaires in the venue, but this was well matched by the regular customers who felt they had been treated like millionaires. Because one thing was for sure –

Everyone was a VIP.

The image below gives a reminder of the simple but effective moving lighting feature, that filled the back of the stage, and illuminated the room.


Wonder if the guy in the striped shirt knows that he is mirroring the wallpaper, upholstery and carpet colour. He would have taken some finding if he had fallen asleep.

Tony Walker, Marie Burton and the management team worked hard, alongside Molly, Tracey and the remainder of the bar girls in their Lycra body stockings, Ida and the team in the cloakroom, Brenda on the buffet, Greg, Dave and co on the door, and the inimitable Bill in the gents toilets.

All in all a tremendous team, and a far reaching memory not only for former Derby club goers, but also those from around the country who visited the amazing Pink Coconut.




We found some pictures of the legendary guys who made R&Js Derby brilliant

Every now and again we come across images that really roll back the years, and amongst them we found some of the pictures of the legendary guys who made R&Js Derby brilliant.

In the early 1980s, the entertainment team included Dave Maurice, Martin Raynor and Glen Rodgers. They had an old “rock n roll” sound system in each of the two rooms, and the amazing ability to both pack the dance floors, and to keep the sound and lighting systems working with invaluable assistance from the staff at Potts in Babbington Lane.

Strategically placed televisions showed “Match of the Day” every Saturday during the football season, which ensured a capacity audience by 10.30pm, and completely “male free” dancefloors when Derby County were playing.

Live entertainment was becoming difficult, with the resident band playing on a darkened stage, initially to a packed dancefloor, then to the bare boards when the customers realised they were not dancing to the DJs.

The following image of Martin and Dave shows some of the history of the time; the large “mop cap” lamp shades through the opening are from the Peppermint Lounge restaurant area, and “Oh Dear” – the slash curtains to the left (these formed the backdrop to the stage. And yes! There was wiring everywhere – long before the epidemic of health and safety. And not only is Dave smoking – he is playing “records” – how time has moved on!


You will remember the story of the new assistant manager who was sent into report on R&Js before actually starting work there! Well – that is Paul on the left in the image below. Poor Dave looks as though he had been press ganged into being involved.

It`s a shame we don’t have images of the two lovely dancers from that time – Yeta Hall and Mary Minto – they were fabulous.


We see that Dave is reading a “mock” book – The Perfect Lover by Ron B.

Now pleased do n0t rush out to buy a copy. Ron Bromwich may well have been the author/culprit. He was an excellent food and beverage guy, but we found no evidence of the him being Perfect Lover, although he may well be working at this very moment on “Fifty Shades of Disco”.

We have no idea where you are now Ron, but we wish you the best of luck.

Then as time moved along another DJ was added to the team, and was spotted behind two young ladies outside the Old Bell in Sadlergate.


Chris Steadman was a legend, he not only knew what to play, he knew how and when to play it.

Chris came along after Dave and the team, and was one of the key players alongside John West, Dave Burley, Daryl Rodgers, and others – who were each vital in the business increase needed to obtain the funding required to create the Pink Coconut.

But that is another story.















Mecca Dance Halls and Managers from Summer 1961

We thought you would like to see a list of the Mecca Dance Halls and Managers from Summer 1961.

Clearly there are many town and cities not mentioned – such as Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow, and many many others, but perhaps there is a clue in the number of planned openings highlighted in the list below.

Basildon Locarno – Town Centre – Manager     M Green

Belfast Plaza – Chichester Street – Manager    D R Clark  – Phone Belfast 25294

Blackburn Locarno – St Peter Street – Manager B Gee – Phone Blakewater 85538

Bolton Palais – Bridge Street – Manager W. McLeish – Phone Bolton 1451

Bradford Locarno – Manningham Lane – Manager Alan Boyce     (Opening 9th September 1961)

Burnley Locarno  – Manchester Road – Manager  C Isherwood   (Formerly the Mechanic`s Institute)

Bury   Prince`s Ballroom – Bolton Street – Manager L Byron – Phone Bury 1705

Coventry Locarno – Smithford Way – Manager R Bloxham – Phone Coventry 24570

Derby Locarno – Babington Lane – Manager A Ferris – Phone Derby 41441

Edinburgh Palais – Fountainbridge – Manager G Knowles – Phone Fountainbridge 7427

Hull Locarno – Ferensway – Manager J Munro       ( Opening 16th September 1961)

Ilford Palais – High Road – Manager B Foster – Phone Ilford 3128

Leeds Locarno – County Arcade – Manager J Savile – Phone Leeds 31046/7

Leicester Palais – Humberstone Gate – Manager G Pickavant – Phone 69967

Liverpool Grafton Rooms – West Derby Road – Manager T Reid – Phone Anfield 3928

London Lyceum – Wellington Street, The Strand – Manager D Preedy – Phone Temple Bar 3715

London Carlton Rooms – 140 Maida Vale, W 9 – Manager J H Richardson – Phone Maida Vale 5289

London Empire Rooms – Tottenham Court Road – Manager C Self – Phone Euston 4173

Manchester Plaza – Oxford Road – Manager P Wild – Phone Central 7441

Newcastle upon Tyne  The Mayfair – (Planned for opening during October 1961)

Norwich  Sampson and Hercules Ballroom – Tombland – Manager R V Shackell – Phone Norwich 21541

Norwich Norwood Rooms – Aylsham Road – Manager G Barbour – Phone Norwich 46751

Nottingham Sherwood Rooms – Greyfriar Gate – Manager N F Kemp – Phone Nottingham 50555

Nottingham Locarno – St Anns Well Road – Manager G Lloyd – Phone Nottingham 44354

Rochdale Carlton – Great George Street –  – Manager E Mills – Phone Rochdale 3347

Sale Locarno – Washway Road – Manager J Goodings – Phone Sale 1508

Sale Embassy Rooms – Washway Road – Manager H Burnett – Phone Sale 7522

Sheffield Locarno – London Road – Manager M S Proctor – Phone Sheffield 22586

Stevenage Locarno – Manager B A Elmer-Smith   (Opening September/October 1961)

Wakefield Locarno – Southgate – Manager R Keith – Phone Wakefield 6515/6

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